Last week James Sikes made headlines when his 2008 Toyota Prius raced out of control of a California highway, with speeds approaching 100 mph. Sikes claimed this was a case of unintended acceleration, with repeated attempts to stop the car not working. A believable story considering Toyota’s long list of recent recalls, it now appears to be a hoax with Runaway Prius Guy quickly becoming the next Balloon Boy.
A story that was riddled with misinformation (several outlets erroneously reporting that a California Highway Patrol officer had to use his cruiser to slow the Prius), Jalopnik uncovered that Sikes is in debt to the tune of $700,000 – motivation to fake the incident in order to get a settlement or to take Toyota to court. Sikes has repeated that he has no interest in suing Toyota, but now his story has been completely called into question.
A federal investigation of the Prius, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, has shown that the condition of the car’s brakes does not support Sikes’ story, in particular his insistence that repeated and forceful use of the brake pedal did not slow the car. According to the Journal, the investigation, “didn’t find signs the brake had been applied at full force at high speeds over a sustained period of time.”
It’s not yet clear if the damage from this story can be repaired, but Toyota is on the march to repair its name, recently debunking the ABC News story and the work of professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University.